When we venture into a new city, many of us hope to disguise our status as tourists. We don’t want to be seen as a “touron”, a term that I saw on Matt Long’s blog, Landlopers. According to the Urban Dictionary, a touron is “any person who, while on vacation, commits an act of pure stupidity”.
So we wisely avoid tourist traps, try to blend in with locals and be good, responsible travelers. We do research about the must-see attractions, read up ahead of time about local culture and etiquette (what to wear, what to eat, how much to tip, etc.) But if it is your first visit to a particular city or perhaps you’re a solo traveler wanting to start out cautiously, I have a recommendation that will immediately identify you as a tourist and I don’t want you to be embarrassed.
Hop On Hop Off
Get on one of those “hop on hop off” tour buses for a couple of hours (no longer than that)! You don’t even have to do any hopping at all – just sit down, look around and get a feel for the city. You’ll be surprised at how it will improve your navigational skills as you spend the rest of your visit exuding confidence as you walk for miles around town experiencing this new place. Maybe you’ve seen these double-decker buses maneuvering through busy streets of major cities while a guide on a loud speaker is describing the sights and sometimes the history of a place. You may have even wished you were on one, but didn’t want to give yourself away as a tourist. I’ve done this in London, Dublin, Toronto, Boston and a few other places and was glad that I did.
Another no-regrets reason to spend a couple of hours on a tour bus would be if your goal is to make sure you see the main sites and have only a short period of time. And once I hopped on one of these buses because after hours of walking I had major blisters, but had so much more I wanted to see that day.
But don’t stay on all day! Be sure that your use of the tour buses is to maximize your visit, not to take away from the real travel experience. The best way to enjoy a city and discover its uniqueness is to get on your feet and walk, ride the metros or subways, and eat, drink and shop with the locals. Nobody is going to recognize you as “the tourist who got on the bus” — as long as you don’t act like a touron!
Here are a few views from the bus!